CIVIC chiefs have been slammed after investing hundreds of millions of pounds from their pension fund in fossil fuels.

New data out today from environmental campaign group Platform has shown that Hampshire County Council’s pension fund has invested £320m (5.21 per cent of the total fund) in fossil fuel companies.

The Hampshire Pension Fund manages the pensions on behalf of 300 employers and public bodies across the county comprising 160,000 staff.

Ruth Jarman, a board member of Operation Noah, a Christian climate change charity, said: “The £320m investment is actually making things worse for the future because the money is being invested in something that is threatening the livelihoods of people all over the world – including in Hampshire.

“The council’s investment is also threatening the future of our children and grandchildren, and the local nature that we take for granted and enjoy.

“They should be investing in companies that do not cause climate change – such as renewables, which could create hundreds of new jobs.”

Deirdre Duff, Friends of the Earth divestment campaigner added: “Council pension funds should pull their cash out of coal, gas, and oil and invest in the new technologies that are already helping to build a cleaner, safer future.”

Keith Taylor, Green MEP for the South East of England and European chair of the Climate Parliament, said: “It’s shocking to see such huge sums of Hampshire taxpayers’ money pumped into climate destructive, financially risky and, frankly, morally bankrupt industries.

“At a time when the renewable energy industry is one of the fastest growing in the world it makes no sense for them to still be investing in fossil fuels.

“Hampshire is already benefitting from a number of renewable energy projects that would no doubt welcome more investment.”

But politicians across the county have defended the move, citing it as a ‘safe investment’.

Royston Smith (pictured), the Tory MP for Southampton Itchen, said: “It is clearly necessary for pension funds to generate enough income to provide security in retirement for millions of pensioners on often limited, fixed incomes.

“It should be no great shock that local government pension funds look to invest in a diverse portfolio including some of UK’s biggest corporations such as BP and Shell.

“These companies are considered safe investments and generally provide a steady income to pension funds.”

Councillor Sean Woodward, leader of Fareham Borough Council added: “The most important thing is the return for Hampshire’s pensioners who expect to get the best possible rate of return from balanced investment decisions. Fossil fuel companies represent just 5% of the portfolio.”

A spokesperson for the Hampshire Pension Panel and Board said: “The pension fund appoints specialist external investment managers and instructs them to take social, environmental and ethical considerations into account when assessing the financial potential and suitability of investments.

“However, the independent pension fund has a fiduciary duty, by law, to invest fund monies to achieve the best possible financial return.”

The findings come after Hampshire County Council invested £2.7m in energy saving technology annonced in July as part of as part of its energy and carbon management programme which seeks to reduce carbon emissions and cut energy costs.